For me, it began in early 2007 when my wife Dessi and I extended an open invitation to the local community to transform our vacant building at 337 South 400 East into a collective work of art. Over the next three months, nearly 150 artists covered the building with art, inside and out, and, in May 2007, we opened the building to the public for six days. During its short life, what came to be known as the 337 Project was visited by approximately 10,000 people, many of whom waited in line for up to four hours just to get in. In the wake of that very happy experience, Dessi and I incorporated the 337 Project as a nonprofit and now continue to experiment with new ways to bring the work of Utah’s visual artists to the public.
Even with my limited experience, however, I can confidently predict that Utah may soon be known as the art capital of the West. After years of development, we are on the verge of reaching that critical mass of practicing artists, collectors, and arts organizations needed to sustain a vibrant local art scene. Once that happens, Utah artists will be more likely to stay put, and artists from other parts of the country will decide that Utah really is the place. Get involved now, and I promise you will be in for one heck of a ride.
As for this year’s list, I have deliberately excluded the usual suspects—who have carried the local art scene for years—in order to better explore the remarkable breadth of Utah’s artistic explosion. Many who deserve to be on the list were excluded solely to allow for a more balanced picture of Utah’s diverse visual arts culture. I regret that I did not have space for them all.
Of the terrific people and places mentioned below, my only advice is to find the ones that you love—and then bask in the experience. After that, go off and explore on your own. I promise you there are a lot more than 25 reasons to be excited about the visual arts in Utah.
Barton’s paintings can be hard to find; he is not represented by a gallery and does not produce in volume. When you can find an original Barton, however, whether it is hung on a wall or painted on the side of a building, you are in for a treat. His paintings touch on a wide variety of subject matter: Japanese nightingales, misty forests, and a woman resting her head on her forearms are recent creations. All are beautifully composed with strong graphic lines and vivid colors.
Sculptor Bateman stacks books (literally thousands of pounds of them) to create inspiring monoliths. The massive weight and dimension of these structures contrast with the delicate ripple patterns that travel across their surface, a product of the irregular size of Bateman’s literary building blocks.
For a modern take on the landscape genre, look for works by painter Belliston. The subjective experience of the urban environment—not only of buildings, sidewalks and asphalt, but also the passage of time—are captured in her abstract mixed-media creations.
What do you get when you mix graffiti, urban art and Byzantine mosaics? One answer might be the work of Biroe. Still in high school, this promising artist has already developed a distinctive and playful style by drawing extraordinarily intricate tile-like patterns that resolve themselves into imaginary creatures, robots, and even the occasional tree.
Carter’s watercolor paintings promise to breathe new life into Utah’s tradition of landscape paintings. Carter allows us to see the natural environment in a new light by distilling her images to such a fine simplicity that trees, grass and sky seem to dissolve into serene groupings of shape and color.
The subjects of Christofferson’s work are, to say the least, diverse: troll-like figures with shiny red noses, sufferers of trichophagia (the compulsive eating of hair), murderous elephants and iconic shrines to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Throughout, Christofferson maintains an elegance and crispness in his work that sets him apart from his peers.
Both accessible and inviting, DeCaria’s paintings are whimsical masses of bright colors and fluid gestures. From within this tangle of lines, DeCaria draws out flowers, vines, houses and rain to create a lush and hopeful space worthy of exploration.
One of the top graffiti writers in Salt Lake City, Defstar’s unique compositions frequently include both solemn autobiographical images and more humorous creations, such as Ganesh, the Hindu elephant god, posed with paint roller and spray can. For those looking to learn more about local graffiti artists, Defstar is a good place to start.
n A dark energy infuses Domingo’s work and is the hallmark of her aesthetic vision. Desolate landscapes and twilight forests threaten to engulf her beautifully rendered figures, both beastly and graceful.
It is too early in the tenure of Heather Ferrell, the new executive director of the Salt Lake Art Center, to know what her ultimate impact on the local art scene will be. Early signs are positive, however, as Ferrell already has begun to build bridges to new constituencies.
Kennedy’s obviously affectionate but also uneasy relationship to Mormon culture receives a thoughtful airing in her artistic work. Canning jars, salt crystals, foodstuffs and sego lilies, often juxtaposed with more disconcerting materials, play a prominent role in her creations.
Lambson is not an artist himself, but he is poised to revolutionize the local art scene. With a sophisticated and adventurous sensibility, Lambson brings his years of experience at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., to his new job as the curator of contemporary art for the BYU Museum of Art. Don’t miss Lambson’s first major exhibition, a series of breathtaking installations by Dan Steinhilber, at the MOA through Spring 2009.
As Landvatter tells it, his mother forced him to practice in his sketchbook for an hour a day when he was growing up. The long hours of work have paid off: Landvatter’s Sharpie drawings capture a remarkable emotional depth with an economy of effort.
Lindsey’s deeply moving creations show signs both of her mastery of complex techniques and of the uncontrollable processes that Lindsey is courageous enough to use in her work. Earlier this year, Lindsey relocated one of her frescoes from its original location to the Salt Lake Art Center, utilizing a method that left unpredictable—and unexpectedly melancholy—lacunae in the body of her work.
Still a student at the University of Utah, McGlothlen already displays the sophistication and conceptual depth of the best artists. McGlothlen works in a variety of media, but soil and grass seem to predominate of late. From an ephemeral field of grass built in an attic to a grass hillock simultaneously integrated and dissected by display cases at the Salt Lake Art Center, McGlothlen’s creations reward those who have the patience to sit quietly and enjoy their many layers.
Capturing photographic images of failed businesses in deserts and small towns is full-time work for Moore, who regularly drives from the Gulf Coast up to Canada in search of new material. Moore’s thoughtful interest in the entropy at work in our communities takes on added significance in these difficult economic times.
Working mostly in oils at the present, Peck’s paintings are a wondrous fairy tale of long necks, doe eyes, castles, beautiful fabrics, scraps of lovingly collected paper and spelling lists created by her young daughters, Aleah and Eve.
Plewe lays down patches of luminous color on fields that are dark and flat. Whether taken as pure abstraction or as evidence of Plewe’s abiding interest in astronomy, her paintings are dynamic and exciting.
ERIN AND NICK POTTER
Monsters—sometimes magical, sometimes scary, but always the product of creative tensions within the husband-and-wife team—abound in the art of Erin and Nick Potter. Although the Potters are perhaps best known for their hand-screened posters, keep an eye out for their stellar installation work, which earned them a ticket to the Salt Lake Art Center earlier this year.
Admirably spanning the divide between craftsman and artist, Porter fabricates delicate spans of wood into organic-structural creations that call to mind the work of architect Antoni Gaudí Porter’s remarkable ability to evoke feelings of impermanence and loss through his abstract sculptures was recognized with a 2008 Arty from the readers of City Weekly.
Presslee’s work is a never-ending nightmare about kitsch. Scrapbooked floral patterns, cherubs and linen flowers mix with enormous plastic eyeballs, bloody hatchets, knife-wielding rabbits and coonskin caps. Though perhaps not for the faint of heart, Presslee’s sculptural works display an intense energy and well-developed sense of humor.
Although an accomplished painter, Rossiter has turned to chalk for his most recent creations, massive drawings that are typically only 5 feet high, but that may run to as much as 90 feet in length. These densely textured works are a labyrinth of flowing lines and figures, one dissolving into another. And they do not last. Some are cut up into pieces, others are re-worked by the public, responding to Rossiter’s generous invitation to join him in the act of creation.
SEGO ART CENTER
A labor of love, the nonprofit Sego Art Center in Provo is a gift to the community from Maht Paulos, Jason Metcalf and Ryan Neely. Despite having a diminutive gallery space, Sego’s cutting-edge programming is already having an outsized impact on the entire Wasatch Front.
Rumored to have the largest beard in the Intermountain West, Wiemeyer may be one of the most daring artists working in Utah today. Although there are common themes in his work, Wiemeyer maintains a fresh energy by continually pushing himself into new areas. The wonderful results include electric intestines on the wall of a two-story building, a larger-than-life self-portrait that was shredded over a three-month period by a machine of Wiemeyer’s own creation, and a classic seascape—complete with cutter ships and seagulls—done entirely in spray paint on a garage door.
Willis’ pleasure in the process of creation is evident in her oil paintings. Emotionally intimate portraits and landscapes alike are rendered with thick texture and in luscious, exuberant color.
Adam Price spends his free time driving the Art Truck, a new offering from the 337 Project that brings national and local artists directly to your doorstep. There are rumors that Adam intends to organize an artist-designed miniature-golf course toward the end of 2009, but the only way to know for sure is to subscribe to the 337 Project Newsletter by going to 337Project.org.